Most Common Punctuation Mistakes

[master these or be a slave to them]


1) The comma splice

Two sentences joined only with a comma is a comma splice.

Sentence, sentence.  This is not okay. Fix it by changing the comma to a semi-colon or use a coordinating conjunction after the comma, like this:

Sentence, and sentence. [Or like this: Sentence, but sentence.] The other common coordinating conjunctions are yet and nor.

 2) The run-on

A run-on is two complete sentences not joined with any punctuation: sentence sentence.  No good at all. Fix it as with the comma splice: semi-colon or comma plus coordinating conjunction.

 3) The sentence fragment

This is any non-complete sentence (though incomplete sentences are okay in dialogue).

Here are some obvious examples: If I wanted to; the boys don’t; since he arrived.

Most sentence fragments can be easily joined with a comma to the nearest complete sentence.

I can jump off this building. If I wanted to.  This complete sentence and fragment can be easily changed to:

I can jump off this building, if I wanted to.

4 Punctuating Dialogue

Every time a new voice enters into your [written] conversation, you indicate it with a new paragraph.  Here is an example:

I had just jumped off the building when I saw John. I said, “Hey, John!”

            “Hi, Mary!” he yelled.

            “Did you see me jump?” I asked.

            Mary looked at me kind of funny and said, “You’re an idiot.”

Notice the use of the question mark and exclamation points. They don’t go after the words “asked” or “yelled” since they are not connected to the words that were said.

There are many sites on the internet that will help a person with punctuating dialogue. Search for "Grammar" and "Quotation."


5 Apostrophes

Apostrophes indicating possession:

            This is the boy’s glove. [One boy owns this glove.]

            This is the boys’ glove. [More than one boy owns this glove.]

            These are the boys’ gloves. [More than one boy owns more than one glove.]

Apostrophes indicating letters missing:

            I can’t do that. [I cannot do that.]

            I’ll do it. [I will do it.]

            It’s okay. [It is okay.] 

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